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Exhortations August 31, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Philippians 4:2-9.

Summary: Paul begins by appealing to two women in the Philippian church – Euodia and Syntyche – to halt their dissensions. He requests that Epaphroditus, along with Clement and the fellow believers who:

  • have assisted Paul
  • are immortally blessed

assist Euodia and Syntyche in this regard.

Paul then bids the Philippians farewell and exhorts them to be cheerful. He also exhorts them to let their forbearance be evident to all men, as the return of Christ is at hand. They should not entertain harassing cares, but in all situations they should:

  • desire to generally offer up their wishes to God
  • make special requests to Him for the supply of their needs

while expressing thankfulness to Him for past blessings. In this way God will enable them to halt their dissensions, granting them an eternal satisfaction and standing guard over their thoughts and feelings.

Paul concludes by exhorting the Philippians to entertain thoughts that are:

  • true and noble
  • right and stainless
  • lovely and admirable
  • even compatible with the heathen concept of virtue
  • able to elicit the praise of men.

Thoughts: Verses 2 and 3 contain an explicit plea from Paul to Euodia and Syntyche that they case their dissensions. Lightfoot offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

Euodia and Syntyche appear to have been ladies of rank, or possibly (like Phoebe, Romans 16:1) deaconesses in the Philippian church.

Readers of this blog are aware of my desire to meet various Biblical characters in the next life, and this is certainly the case with Euodia and Syntyche. How did they come to believe the Gospel, and how did they serve in the Philippian church? How did they respond to this explicit plea from Paul? Did Epaphroditus, Clement and other Philippian believers assist them in overcoming their differences? How do they feel about the fact that generations of believers – including me – know of their dispute at that time?

In verse 6, Paul exhorts the Philippians to thank God when lifting up their prayers to Him. Lightfoot offers some insights on this point:

Great stress is laid on the duty of thanksgiving by St. Paul, for example in Romans 1:21; 14:6; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 4:15; 9:11-12; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 2:7; 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:1. All his own letters addressed to churches, with the sole exception of the letter to the Galatians, commence with an emphatic thanksgiving.

This is certainly a stumbling block for me. I often fall into the trap of asking God, “what have you done for me lately?” In those instances I willfully ignore all of the blessings that He has given me. Now I do find it helpful to heed the advice in Count Your Blessings by actually compiling a mental list of these blessings. This exercise compels me to remember how God has blessed me in the past, and reliving those memories spurs me to give thanks to Him. Moreover, His inherent consistency assures me that He will continue to bless me in the future.

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